5 mins with Clayton Roper, ITP Engineer of the Year 2017

Clayton Roper (002)

What is your current job title?

Openreach – Exchange Services Technical Coach – covering South Wales.

Can you tell us about your telecoms career history so far?

I always enjoyed Physics, Electrical Principles and Electronics at school, so I applied for an apprenticeship with GPO Telecoms in 1980.  I was successful and joined the GPO on Sept 1st 1980.  I qualified from my apprenticeship and became an Exchange Maintenance Technician in Sept ’83. I was promoted to Technical Officer grade in 1986, rising to TOA / team leader a few years later.

Over the next 20 years I worked on and maintained several types of telecom equipment including Strowger, TXE2, AXE10, System X, PCM systems, transmission systems, fibre optics, and radio systems.

When Openreach was formed in 2006, I moved across to become the team leader of an exchange services team.  There were four teams in South Wales. In 2013, the four team leaders were interviewed for one ‘technical coach’ position, I was successful and that is my position today.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

I have had two major achievements. One of the largest projects I’ve been involved with was the ‘bulk migration’ of customers to LLU.  I trained and project managed 45 agency staff covering the South Wales area and my team achieved the highest performance figures across the UK for two years running.  This led to me winning the ‘Openreach High performance’ award for 2011.

My second major achievement was last year. Anybody who needs to work on our MDFs must be accredited to H1 standard.  I came up with a new idea called Engineer Development Tool ( EDT ).  This was a modulised training system to prepare candidates for their H1 assessment.  The modules contained demonstration videos, power-point presentations, and advice on all the safety, practical and process information needed to prepare for the H1 accreditation assessment day.  EDT was adopted within BT and rolled out nationally across the UK and is now the basis for all ‘frames’ training for apprentices, new recruits and existing team members.

Since the introduction of EDT, the pass rate across the UK for H1 assessments has increased from 45% in 2016 to 97% in 2017.  In fact, the majority of weeks it is 100%.  My work on this project and several other ‘chief engineer’ investigation projects led to me winning the ITP Engineer Of The Year Award in 2017.

How important is mentoring to you? Have you been mentored or mentored a colleague?

“Mentoring was critical to my career, especially when I was an apprentice.  Being coached in how to carry out every aspect of the job was invaluable, it gave me the skills and confidence to complete any task during and after my apprenticeship.”

I have now taken over as the mentor, training and coaching all new recruits, apprentices and existing team members across South Wales and my job satisfaction is tremendous. I receive new recruits, train them up to the required standard, then turn them out knowing they feel confident in their abilities.  I have no doubt the quality training they receive will last them their whole career.  And they know if they need help at any point in their careers they can always ring me or pop in to see me.

What did winning the award mean to you?

It was nice to be recognised for all the hard work I’ve put into my EDT / H1 project.  It took over six months to write all the EDT training modules. I then re-wrote and updated the H1 accreditation document, liaising with the recruitment and training teams to put together an excellent H1 training package for all apprentices and new recruits. Seeing the improvement in H1 passes is very gratifying but to win the ITP Engineer Of The Year Award and be recognised by the wider industry was absolutely tremendous.

What has happened since winning the award?

Lots of ribbing from my mates and fellow coaches across the UK!  But I’ve also been inundated with requests to become involved in other coaching / training projects.

I’m attending the “What Next?” event at BT Centre London in March where the ITP Award winners will be on stage alongside the BT Chairman, Jan Du Plesiss and the Openreach Chairman, Mike McTighe, speaking then taking questions from 170 invited guests.

What advice would you give others considering entering an industry award?

I would say “go for it!”.  It will help you get noticed within your business and will undoubtedly help you progress in your career.

The ITP award night was a great event and I particularly enjoyed meeting, and swapping views with, people from other companies across the telecom sector.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in telecoms?

Don’t hesitate.  There are hundreds of secure, long term career paths within the telecoms sector. Telecoms will be here forever, continually changing and evolving which keeps my job interesting. In 1980 I was offered 5 apprenticeships across several industries, 3 of those companies are no more, yet BT / Openreach is still here and continues to lead at the cutting edge of technology.

Find out more about the ITP Awards.

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